The NHS Interim People Plan was published on 3rd June 2019 and sets an agenda to tackle the range of workforce challenges in the NHS, including some of the immediate actions necessary for 19/20. In particular:
- to continue to grow the medical workforce
- address gaps in certain specialties and regions
- deliver our vision for flexible working and training for doctors
- to establish a national programme board to address geographical and specialty shortages in doctors.
The NHS are to establish a new ‘Releasing Time for Care’ programme to draw together what we already know about innovation and good practice and identify actions that are known to have the biggest impact in releasing time for care.
In building a more adaptable workforce, all trusts will seek to develop tech-enabled in-house staff banks, to create greater opportunities for employees to work flexibly. As well as being expected to establish collaborative staff banks with other local trusts. Furthermore, ICSs will take on greater responsibility for workforce planning and actions, including co-ordinating actions to reduce temporary spend across local provider organisations.
With this in mind, the challenge now is to develop sustainable and effective collaborative medical staff banks. A collaborative bank service will help to drive down costs, improve efficiencies, and retain staff. People naturally migrate to where the work is, so by offering more bank vacancies through an integrated collaborative platform, trusts will:
- drive staff uptake and reduce reliance on more expensive forms of contingent labour
- keep skillsets and knowledge within the region because staff no longer need to go elsewhere for work
- improve the availability and deployment of the clinical workforce, ensuring the right clinicians are always available to patients, regardless of location thus reducing the further need for agency workers.
Collaborative working isn’t just about cash savings; it’s about continuity of care, worker wellbeing, minimising competition between neighbouring trusts and reducing agency staff reliance by having the right resources in the right place at the right time.
We need to understand how we can tackle these workforce challenges together using ground breaking collaboration and benchmarking analysis, focusing on recruitment and retention of workers and the reduction of the workforce hour.
Use of a standalone Worker App may tick the box for pushing the use of innovative technology, but will it address the need for good management information and benchmarking analysis to facilitate and inform a regional/system-wide contingent workforce strategy? Moreover, where is the incentive to drive down agency spend when there is no integrated vacancy shift workflow in place? Additionally, who will be responsible for managing the conversion of agency to bank, be it through control and visibility of pay and commission benchmarking or through an automated vacancy release process from bank to collaborative bank and then to agency?
Standalone apps are easy to use and seductive in their appeal, but they seldom talk to each other and even more rarely do they talk to static systems.
The main priority for NHS organisations is the improvement in patient safety and continuity of care, which can only be achieved by improving the availability and deployment of the clinical workforce to ensure the right clinicians are always available to patients, regardless of location. Therefore, how can we assist participating NHS organisations in having more control of their workforce planning if deployment of a mobile app is not integrated into a platform from roster to pay and supply to invoicing, potentially creating even further integration requirements between silos of data?
With the combination of rising demand, workforce shortages and financial constraints, we must help NHS organisations make better decisions by:
- making their workforce data useful, actionable and accessible
- by highlighting important insights to better understand the required level of capacity to keep pace with demand
- by inputting into a system-wide workforce strategy now and in the long-term.
Liaison Workforce’s services support the sharing of information and workers across the NHS, be that with neighbouring organisations, staff with specific specialties or across specialist sectors. With skills and knowledge remaining within the NHS, patient outcomes are improved as doctors become more familiar with systems at several trust or health board sites. Liaison Workforce has a proud track record in reducing its customers reliance on expensive forms of agency workers by providing one consolidated view of all staff groups and all staff types, whether substantive, bank or agency, within our integrated platform – TempRE. Our solution gives NHS organisations the ability to manage the contingent workforce more effectively and identifies additional savings and efficiencies through world class management information and reporting services.
Liaison Workforce is pioneering change in locum staff banks, supporting trusts to establish banks individually and, uniquely, collaboratively – sharing resources across regions.
Working with the Lead Employer Trust (LET), Liaison Workforce designed and facilitated a collaborative bank (FlexiShift) in the North East and North Cumbria – the first of its kind. Utilising our own software, app-based technology and onsite staff presence, we delivered tangible results.
Our TempRE platform manages seven participating trusts, processing c.800 doctors per week and across 35 specialities. The doctors access the medical collaborative bank service through various multi-communication channels, including the TempRE App and the Flexishift website. The LET has seen some significant results over the last two years e.g. two trusts have not used agency workers in emergency medicine for the first time in more than five years.
“We’ve been successful in securing regional collaboration not only in terms of addressing and harmonising pay rates but also in improving the patient safety side. With some fifty percent of the doctors rotating around the region, we’re now using a workforce that is aware of how we operate within the region and the systems at the individual hospital trust sites.Linsey Richards, Head of Human Resources
The collaborative bank ensures that we have doctors and dentists working at the level, specialty and competence that they have been trained to do within the NHS. “
Lead Employer Trust | Health Education England North East
Trusts now share the workforce supply pool before approaching agencies, vacancies are filled faster and more efficiently with no negative impact on patient care. Better technology, supported by a mobile app, means streamlined administration and reduced burden on finance and medical staffing teams.
The TempRE App
As part of our multi-channel access points, Liaison Workforce has c30,000 workers registered on TempRE with access to the TempRE App to manage their shift bookings, timesheets and payments.
The TempRE App services bank and agency medical locums, AHPs and nurses, as well as having trust functionality for worker approvals and in addition:
- Access live vacancies
- Apply for shifts quickly
- View and sign contracts electronically
- Confirm shifts on the go
- Complete timesheets effortlessly
Since deployment of the TempRE App at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust in August 2019, the trust has seen a 20% increase in their medical bank utilisation. With the roll-out of additional ‘physical’ bank recruitment assets and promoting the TempRE App across three other sites, the utilisation is expected to increase further in line with the initial roll-out project.
“It’s a good app, its self-explanatory and easy to access. It’s made managing my work so much easier as I have awareness of shifts ahead of time.”Dr Zainab Zafar – University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Whilst automation has already started to replace many paper-based manual processes, helping forward-thinking NHS organisations save money and make better use of their workforce, the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) promises even greater opportunities for wide-scale efficiencies.
In partnership with University Hospitals Birmingham, Liaison Workforce has developed a robotics solution for automating the process of creating shifts in TempRE directly from the trusts e-Rostering system. This has enabled the trust to reduce their operating costs and drive efficiencies through the adoption of this intelligent automation technology.
“The robotics tool has not just automated our bookings process to be quicker and more accurate but will also enable the trust to transfer all staffing groups on to TempRE, thus providing full visibility and control of our temporary workforce spend and improving quality, safety, risk, and productivity.”Vicky Race, Head of Temporary Staffing – University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
The intelligent automation technology automates repetitive tasks with pre-defined rules. For that reason, the robotics tool we deploy also has intelligence capabilities, which will enable the trust to automate not only repetitive tasks but also take advantage of the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning which will support them making better decisions, faster and with less effort.